Building the Oriole

by Michael Chua

Clamp Box

Check Squareness

Loudspeakers are a major cost in a sound system. With some basic power tools, you can build beautiful loudspeakers with very minimal cost. I built these Orioles without any professional help. It may inspire you to diy your own speakers too.

I have outlined the building stages for easy understanding. Feel free to adopt or modify any steps along the way.

Box Making

First is the stock. Instead of using MDF, I decided to use normal, cabinet grade, 3/4" Birch ply. This saves me the trouble of veneering. Also, veneers are costly.

To cut the panels to size, use a quality table saw. An accurate fence is essential.

For the joins, I use a biscuit joiner. A simple butt join is strong enough. Apply water based, white wood glue (Elmer's) liberally and clamp. Make sure the panels are 90 degrees. Leave the clamps on overnight for the white glue to set. When done correctly, the box will be a nice rectangle once the clamps are removed.

Glue wooden cleats for the front and back panels. Here, I switch over to TiteBond as it's faster drying. Once it's properly set, the front panel mdf substrate is glued to the cleats with TiteBond and tightened with flat head screws. Obviously the pilot holes on the mdf must be countersunk beforehand. Leave overnight.

The front panel is 1" solid, finished Pine (no knots). Apply glue, in this case, Gorilla White Wood Glue (ran out of TiteBond) and clamp. Leave overnight.

Next is to tidy up the front panel. I use a router with a trimming bit to flush the edges as it is slightly oversized (about 1/8" all round). Once it is nice and flush, a 1/4" half round bit is used to soften the look. The raw speakers are now ready for staining.


The finishing can be regarded as the second half in speaker building. This is where the speakers will either look like a million bucks or you will suffer from severe depression.

Below are the steps in finishing.

1) Sand all surfaces with 120 grade paper. I'm lazy, I use a powered Finishing Sander.

2) Vacuum off all dust.

3) Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (for oil stain) liberally to all surfaces. Birch and Pine are softwood. Without the Conditioner, the stains will be blotchy.

4) After the Conditioner is sufficiently soaked in (read instructions on can for time), brush Oil Stain onto the Birch panels. Allow to dry (read instructions on can). Apply a second coat to deepen the color if necessary which is what I did.

5) For the front Pine panel, apply Gel Stain with a cloth. To prevent the stains from bleeding into each other, there is actually a thin gap of about 1/8" separating the Pine panel from the Birch ply. This is done by raising the mdf substrate slightly.

6) Leave overnight for all the stains to dry thoroughly.

7) Use #0000 Steel Wool to remove any raised grain. Gently run the steel wool along the grain until the wood is smooth.

8) Vacuum off all debris.

9) Apply Sanding Sealer. Use the type that is suitable for Oil Stains and Polyurethane topcoat. This application seals in the stains and at the same time provides a base for the final topcoat. Let dry.

10) Sand all surfaces lightly with 240 grade sandpaper. Do not over-sand.

11) Vacuum off all dust.

12) For the final coat, brush on Gloss Polyurethane Clear Coat. One coat is enough. Best done when temperature is about 70 F with humidity about 50%. Leave overnight or 24 hrs to dry (read instructions on can).

If all goes well, you will be the envy of your friends. Good Luck.

Glue Cleats

Glue Front Panel Substrate

Glue and Clamp Pine Front Panel

Stain Box

Brush on Gloss Clear Coat

(Photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 950)

60 Downes Street | Calais | ME 04619 | USA